Time to Change Your Business Strategy?

One of the earliest requirements of a successful business is laying out clear goals and objectives, and that must be followed by outlining an ambitious yet realistic business strategy to attain them. 

In my experience, any strategy is “the art of getting things done.” Simply put, an organization’s success relies on its capacity to implement vital organizational processes and decisions effectively, efficiently, and consistently. 

A business strategy will continually guide managerial decisions throughout the organization to help attain leadership’s grand vision in practical ways. And, as years go by and objectives change, that business strategy will need revisiting and updating. But changing a corporation’s strategy can impact how the company operates, modifying everything, including employees’ daily routines and organizational structure.

However, because this strategy is the foundation upon which annual and five-year operating plans rest, it requires occasional review in the light of the changing economic climate and regulatory environment, or your specific industry and market. 

Assuring an actionable strategy

Strategy decisions will affect your business operations, personnel and clients. And, anticipating just what will happen when you change your strategy is challenging.

But, it is necessary. 

So before initiating or revising, here are four distinct phases I believe will help guide your process:

  • planning phase is essential to allow you and your leaders to develop their strategic vision into realistic, time-bound objectives. Research and testing become crucial in this stage, as you try to get more information about the viability of changes.
  • The crucial implementation phase should not be rushed or begun before executives have the plan fully laid out. Here is where the strategy’s potential becomes active.
  • The third, monitoring phase is ongoing, becoming a recurrent activity that helps leaders gain insight into the effectiveness of the plan while allowing them to identify concerns of potential issues.
  • And finally, in the review stage, leaders analyze data obtained from observation activities and determine whether the strategy needs modification.

Potential positive – and negative – effects

As with any overarching business policy or program, there are both positive and negative consequences when an organization undergoes a strategic transition.

Ideally changing a business strategy will positively impact your organization. Additionally, new approaches can help businesses operate more effectively, efficiently, and agilely. This is advantageous if the opportunity presents itself to quickly enter a new market sector or industry. Changes in techniques can also refresh an organization and allow it reclaim its initial growth rates.

On the other hand, changing business techniques may have adverse effects. For example, internal employee resistance can become a significant threat to effective change if some individuals resist due to perceived personal impact. 

The Bottom Line: steer with a strategy 

A clear business strategy is the rudder of a well-directed business. But implementing a new business strategy is not an easy task. Even a well-crafted, timely initiative can fail. It needs careful articulation of the company’s changes and makes it compulsory for leaders to develop a comprehensive change implementation plan and devise techniques to overcome any potential barriers to implementing the change.

The more research, planning, and advance communication to all levels of the enterprise, will help ensure that the modifications lift your organization higher and help secure its future.

Originally published on TimNoonan.us

How to Develop Leaders

At Lockton Pacific Series, we are fortunate to have many of our industry’s top talent among our leadership ranks.

It didn’t happen by accident. 

Building this stellar leadership team required a strategy that combined developing and promoting talent from within the organization with recruiting proven prospects from outside our company. 

This mixing of insiders who understand a company’s history, culture, operation and employees with those who gained experience and perspective at other companies can be energizing. It can help stimulate fresh ideas and directions. 

But bringing in the wrong person, or elevating a current employee prematurely into a role he or she isn’t right for, can lead to friction among personnel and lost productivity. 

That is why recruitment is so much more than simply choosing from resumes and references. Especially when it comes to key leadership positions, recruitment should be viewed as an investment of time and resources with long-term potential to strengthen your company for years to come.

Invest the time, but first hone your process

Begin by making sure your recruitment team has a thorough knowledge of your company, its mission, operations and corporate culture. This awareness includes knowing the specific demands and interrelationships of your divisions and departments. 

Here are four guidelines that can help your organization find the right people for leadership roles and ensure that they help your company – and themselves – achieve greater success.

  1. Recognize high-potential employees

When scouting for leaders, organizations need to recognize potential. Recruiters must understand what the position entails and select the candidate who is capable of elevating the company to greater heights. One needs to have a hawk’s eye to recognize emerging leaders who can fill vital roles when the need arises. The best way to test an individual’s potential is through unusual and challenging situations.

Furthermore, recruiters must have the ability to evaluate a prospective hire’s soft skills. These skills involve emotional intelligence and include things such as flexibility, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills. 

  1. Sell the organization’s vision

The employees of any company are a critical component of the organization’s mission and vision. When selecting the ideal leader, recruiters must understand the company’s vision to work towards achieving its ultimate objectives. Companies must sell their vision to potential candidates within the company in order to develop the appropriate leaders. The process becomes seamless when they have a clear understanding of the company’s mission and are aligned with its values. 

  1. Provide employees with leadership development opportunities

Organizations will have deeper pools of candidates for promotion if they offer leadership development programs to help sharpen skills, on-the-job training and mentoring programs. These provide employees with opportunities to develop both personally and professionally. And, they create a way to know who is driven to advance.

The value of gender, ethnic and cultural diversity in corporate leadership are indisputable. The more diverse a company becomes, according to research, the more likely it will outperform less diverse peers on profitability.

A 2020 McKinsey & Co. report stated clearly that, “The business case for inclusion and diversity is stronger than ever. … [But] also that the relationship between diversity on executive teams and the likelihood of financial outperformance has strengthened over time.” 

  1. Provide support through coaching

Adequate coaching requires effective advice and guidance involving one-on-one sessions as well as group collaborations. During these meetings, there should be coaching on how to handle challenging situations. 

The company should also provide emerging leaders with strategies for performing a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis. Understanding employees’ SWOT analysis can assist in identifying the most appropriate leader suitable for the position.

In closing, these strategies can help steer your organization to the best candidate for its next leadership opportunity. Remember that recruitment is greatly simplified by a thorough understanding of the scope, demands and potential growth of a position, coupled with an ability to understand people and their potential.

Originally published on TimNoonan.us

How Technology Can Improve Employee Engagement

Successful executives who hope to remain successful know they must prioritize employee relations. Whether they are new staffers or seasoned managers, employees who don’t feel engaged inevitably become disengaged.

The latest Gallup report of U.S. Employee Engagement found that slightly more than a third of those surveyed described themselves as engaged in their jobs. About half said they were not engaged and the remaining 13 percent were “actively disengaged.”

With so many disconnected, effective management is impossible.

Years ago, it might have been enough for corporate policy and employee relations to be summarized in a pamphlet. Now, with the current pace of change, understanding how employee engagement is constantly evolving and must be regularly addressed is an essential function of companies of any size. Even with our seismic shift to artificial intelligence for automating processes and engaging with customers, employees remain the heart and soul of our companies.

Ironically, but not surprisingly, technology now offers some of the best ways for positive and productive employee engagement. Here are three vehicles to help accomplish this while making in-house communication more efficient and effective.

1. The Power of Video

With the ease of capturing video on phones and sharing it on social media, video accounts for a growing portion of everyday communication. With its integration of words, images and sound, it commands our attention and prevents distraction better than written text. Compare a training video with a training manual and you get the idea.

For this article, I include both “recorded” messaging and “live streaming” as video. Both are important, with one offering direct, real-time engagement and one allowing taped interviews, archival images and research to be edited together for greater impact. Of course, combining them, such using recorded video within a conference call, can add to the impact.

Video is a powerful tool, particularly as the U.S. remote workforce continues to grow. Remote work is a trend that was strongly increasing even before the pandemic, amounting to 5.3% of the U.S. workforce. The pandemic accelerated this shift, when that number increased to 42% or about eight times pre-pandemic levels, according to a Stanford University study. As we transition back to the office, multiple studies show most remote workers want to maintain remote work to some degree.

Therefore, the use of online streaming and recorded video have become essential to staying current with workers. Virtually every employee has a computer at their work station and if not, they have a smartphone. So, a communication network already exists. Bearing in mind the real danger of security breaches and the need to safeguard sensitive information, this remains a tremendous tool for uniting your workforce.

You’ll find many ways to engage, but I’ll suggest just one area: sharing credit for your success and recognizing team or individual accomplishments. Studies show that more than 40 percent of workers cite a lack of recognition as a major contributor to their unhappiness at work.

There are many ways for your company to establish peer-to-peer recognition, and using video can be a cornerstone of your program. Work with your HR leadership to see how this can help bring a new positive attitude to your company.

2. Social Media Platforms

Video leads us to corporate social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter as well as private social network platforms like Workplace. Corporate social media, when used effectively, can extend beyond platforms for knowledge-sharing and recruitment. It can help boost employee engagement and communication. 

Set company-wide expectations as well as clear boundaries. Be sure to educate your employees on how social media posts can help the company or undermine it. It’s important that employees understand what types of content are against company policy, so having a written social media policy is essential.

When it comes to recognizing employee successes, social media platforms as well as in-house blogs offer tremendous opportunities.

3. Mobile Apps

Technology is always improving, and mobile applications are becoming more popular by the hour. In fact, most of your employees regularly engage with apps on their smartphones for everything from reading news to ordering food delivery.

Many companies are turning to apps as an internal communications platform, integrating video, phone, instant messaging and collaborative work environments into one space. They tout these apps as critical for streamlining internal communication, daily operations and good teamwork.

Many of these mobile work environments allow managers to deploy updates, get feedback, give well-timed employee recognition, distribute content to promote interactions and track employee engagement.

In the end, technology provides a means to better engage your workforce and help them feel part of a corporate community working towards a shared goal.

Hiring in a ‘Post-Pandemic’ World

With no end-date in sight for Covid and its variants, smart businesses are adopting strategies and processes in line with the new realities.

As 2021 and the second year of Covid-19 wind to a close, new virus variants continue to delay a “Covid-free, post-pandemic” era. Perhaps there isn’t going to be a Covid-free future and we will just vaccinate annually as we do with the flu.

Whatever the future brings, much of the business world is already adjusting to a new norm. We can see that safeguards expected to be short-term stop-gaps have now taken root. They are reshaping aspects of business that may have long-term benefits for employee and management conditions.

The imposition of remote work has given many of the workers who could work from home a less stressful workweek that is commute-free, lacking in dress codes (at least waist down), and potentially more productive. Despite being deprived of socializing it seems clear that, regardless of what happens with the pandemic, many workers around the globe are wanting – at a minimum – flexible schedules that include at least some portion of their week spent in their home office.

An overwhelming 90 percent of the 16,000 employees surveyed in a recent Ernst & Young study stated they “want more flexibility in where and when they work,” and more than half would “consider leaving their jobs post-Covid-19” if they are not afforded at least some flexibility.

To me those percentages read as a directive to leadership.

The survey also found a bright spot regarding improvements in corporate culture, with half the respondents indicating they “believe organizational culture has improved.”

Despite the survey results’ reference to “post-Covid-19” as the time when this demand for flexibility will occur, corporations need to begin adjusting their talent acquisition strategy and hiring processes now.

Virtual Recruitment Is the Future

As hybrid workforces become more normalized and companies reach across geographic barriers for new talent, traditional hiring and onboarding procedures will need some modification – if not total revising.

We are already seeing companies adopt a virtual recruitment approach and investing in virtual platforms to streamline their recruiting processes.

Many international companies have been engaging in some remote assessments and video interviewing before Covid-19. The pandemic and realities of rolling lockdowns have greatly increased reliance of the virtual recruiting process. Virtual recruitment has the advantage of speed, efficiency and cost reduction. It speeds up the hiring time and by letting you reach candidates before your competitors, safeguards against losing them to other companies. Virtual recruiting also allows businesses to hire top people from a larger pool of talent and better diversify their workforce.

As demand for virtual hiring capabilities rises, technology will become increasingly dependable and strategic in reaching skilled talent. Businesses should strive to refine virtual hiring processes and master the technology so that all they need to do is add a human touch into the global recruitment plan.

The EY survey determined that flexible work arrangements have opened many opportunities for organizations to expand their global workforce and is now the “new currency for attracting and retaining top talent.” As flexible working becomes an integral part of their talent acquisition strategy, organizations must accommodate virtual hiring and onboarding, continually adjust their HR policies as well as re-assess the impact of the new work model on their cultures.

How to Delegate Effectively

An executive’s first step towards greater efficiency may simply be learning to let go.

Business executives who want to increase productivity, boost morale, and strengthen workforce commitment within their companies can begin by letting others take larger roles in the decision making.

Not only will sharing your higher-level responsibilities positively impact company culture, it will relieve pressure on you, allowing you to be more productive, especially in the area of long-range planning.

A Gallup study of executives who led 143 of the most successful businesses determined that “companies run by executives who effectively delegate authority grow faster, generate more revenue, and create more jobs.”

Many Potential Reasons

So why are so many leaders reluctant to hand over the weighty reins of decision making? And, why do they hold on even when there is more on their plates than what they can handle in a 24-hour day? Is it fear of being perceived as weak or incapable, and then being bettered by someone else? If so, these may be the real weaknesses that need addressing.

Perhaps leaders struggle with the quality of the projects they delegate, worrying that the projects are not sufficiently empowering? If so, bear in mind that it is the act of showing faith in someone that really empowers them more than the task they are given.

Finally, could it be that you don’t believe anyone else on the payroll can perform the task properly? If so, you have a hiring and staffing issue you need to deal with. Gain confidence that you have a team you can trust to perform up to your standards.

Seven Roads to Sharing The Responsibility

So, how do we build a reliable talent for effective delegating? The following seven strategies are based on a list developed by Audiencebloom Founder and CEO Jayson Demers.

  1. Learn to let go – This is not so easy for entrepreneurs who built a company and are obsessive about getting things perfect. However, if you’ve hired great people you are likely to discover they bring fresh insight and solutions. Start small if you must. But start! Delegate only small tasks and gradually work your way up.
  2. Create a priority system – Demers recommends creating at least four categories, grouping tasks by the degree of effort and skill required. Keep the most demanding for yourself, but be aggressive in dividing up your load among your leadership and outstanding other employees based on their proven talents and history.
  3. Determine staff strengths – Part of being able to effectively assign tasks according to the categories you create, is knowing the strengths – and weaknesses – of your team. Be aware of fellow “plate pilers,” those who for whatever reason will take on more than they can perform effectively. This isn’t an exercise in moving the problem to someone else! As Demers says, “Too many leaders delegate to whoever has the lightest workload or is the most convenient.”
  4. Always include instructions – Here we get to one of the points I made earlier: communication. So often this is at the heart of a problem – any problem. Make sure when you pass on an assignment that you are clear about what you want, how you want it done, any available resources that may be useful, and that you are available to clarify if necessary.
  5. Be willing to teach new skills – In line with being available, always be generous by sharing your knowledge and experience. Not everything can documented in a company handbook. Look at opportunities to engage in some enriching mentoring.
  6. Trust, but verify – If done properly and willingly, the task you delegate will carry an implied measure of faith in the person you assign. That is a gift and it should be treated carefully. Check progress, with a light touch, especially if it’s a new relationship that you want to build. Keep it within the context of a teaching experience, but don’t give up on it. You don’t want to simply snap back the work and return it to your plate.
  7. Use feedback loops – Encourage feedback and acknowledge success. Your team directly contributes to your success. If a team member misses the mark, take them aside privately and offer constructive criticism. Be sure to involve your team in giving you feedback as a leader. A leader should always seek to be more efficient and communicate better with the team.

Remember, it’s going to be a learning experience for you, too. In his book Developing the Leaders Around You, John C. Maxwell wrote, “If you want to do a few small things right, do them yourself. If you want to do great things and make a big impact, learn to delegate.”

Tips for Execs: Employee Retention

How can corporate leaders curb escalating workforce turnover?

Companies large and small are losing employees at a national rate of 3 to 4.5 million employees per month. And the trend is increasing.

As executives, we know that the impact to our companies goes far beyond lost productivity, which alone drains U.S. businesses of $1.8 trillion annually.

The causes are varied and numerous. The Work Institute identified 52 reasons, which HRForecast then grouped into ten categories. The most common are lack of career development, work-life balance, and manager behavior. Others reasons are the hiring strategy, a toxic work culture, employee burnout, and a lack of attachment to company values and goals.

Executives looking to affect change might first realign these categories according to those he or she can correct within the company and those that are the employee’s responsibility. However, if we’re honest, even issues we deem solely up to employees to solve can be made easier to approach if communications, expectations and opportunities within their workplace are positive and realistic.

We corporate leaders have an urgent mandate to address this crisis. What’s more, we have wherewithal to begin reducing the majority of these problems. The opportunity and need are there. One study I read found that “94% of surveyed employees responded that if a company invested in helping them learn, they would stay longer.”

Begin at the beginning

Below are questions we can ask ourselves to immediately begin considering incremental changes to help retain employees. 

But first I want to address the prefatory issue: the hiring process. 

A clear indication that hiring strategies, and the resources dedicated to them, are not working is that “one-third of new employees quit after about six months.” That suggests an extraordinary failure to properly understand and represent our own companies, to thoroughly vet a potential hire, or to see problems within our corporate culture that are only evident after someone is onboard.

I’ve seen figures that put recovering from an unsuccessful hire as high as $240,000 to $850,000 per employee, and, according to Apollo Technical, a cost to replace even an entry-level employee at 50 percent of their salary.

The Executive’s Checklist

To get a sense of how you may contribute to keeping that revolving door spinning, and sending seasoned employees along with top new hires to other companies, here are some questions to ask yourselves. 

  • Do I have too many rules?
  • Do I fail to give credit when it’s due?
  • Do my employees know that I care about them as individuals?
  • Will my employees say they are driven to do current work because of their passions, or does it feel like a grind?
  • Is our company’s mission clear, and does it embrace the contributions of the entire team?
  • Are managers too focused on the tasks and not enough on employee satisfaction?
  • Is there a negative culture in my workplace?
  • Are employees comfortable voicing their opinions or do they fear retaliation?
  • Do I show favoritism amongst the employees?
  • Are there clear double standards for employees versus management?
  • Am I quick to fire people without good cause, even if they’re good at what they do?
  • Do I spend more time cultivating good talent than trying to fix bad apples?
  • Are employees recognized for their work, or does it go unnoticed?
  • Do I allow an employee’s performance to be measured fairly, regardless of who they are and how long they’ve been with the company?
  • Do I reward my top performers for their hard work, dedication, and loyalty?
  • Does my company have a positive reputation in the community and amongst its customers?
  • Do I allow individual expression, or is there a strict dress code in the workplace?
  • Is my company more concerned with what’s cheap vs. what’s best for employees or customers?
  • Do we spend enough to have a good company culture, provide our team with perks, etc.?

Hopefully these questions shine a light on one or more areas that you and your corporate leadership can make changes that ensure you not only keep the best people, but keep the best people positive and productive. 

Let me hear what you think!

Executive Notebook: Philanthropy is Everybody’s Business

Corporate Leadership is Driving a New Level of Community Involvement

Christmas decorations cheering up retail outlets, supermarkets and business offices aren’t the only signs that the year is winding down. Gentle nudges from non-profits to make our 2021 tax-deductible donations are another indicator.

Good cheer and charity, of course, aren’t restricted to December. And in the case of latter, an increasing number of corporate executives are making giving back to their community an integrated, year-round part of their company’s business model. 

More and more executives are committing to robust philanthropic programs. They are directing their companies to contribute to local communities beyond just providing secure employment for members of their community, paying their share of taxes, and generating profits through the creation of goods and services.

Of course, as 2021 winds to a close, the urgency to do more is undeniable. Coming off nearly two years in which hundreds of thousands of Americans lost their lives, the need to support healthcare providers and research institutions is staggering. But the pandemic also put many non-profit institutions on life support – or put them out of business. Arts and cultural organizations that closed their doors for quarantine never reopened them. Many educational, religious or other vital non-profits have been similarly threatened.

Beyond the impact of the pandemic on non-profits, underscoring the importance of corporate philanthropy, the time has come for corporate executives to begin retooling their organizational mission to include activistic philanthropy. 

It is not a new idea. In 2007, Salesforce founder Marc Benioff and co-author Caryle Adler published The Business of Changing the World, Twenty Great Leaders on Strategic Corporate Philanthropy. Among those who contributed were Dell’s Michael S. Dell and Kevin B. Rollins, writing on “The Return of Leading Responsibly,” Laura Scher of Working Assets on “Consumerism with a Conscience,” and AOL cofounder Steve Case on “A Hybrid Approach to Business and Philanthropy.” 

Case, especially, really nailed it. 

“Too many people,” his article began, “act as if the private sector and the social sector should operate on different axes, with one all about maximizing profits and the other all about maximizing social impact. A better approach is to integrate these missions.” 

There are many ways that philanthropy can energize rather than obligate a workforce. They range from corporate sponsorship programs to the increasing use of Volunteer Time Off (VOT) in benefits packages. VOT adds days out of the office, at full compensation, if the employee uses that time to help some local organization. It is a win-win-win: for the employee and the charity as well the company. 

In 2019 the Young Professionals Organization took interest in this issue and sent a Global Leadership Survey to 27,000 chief executive members in 130 countries. 

Ninety-three percent of the 2,200 respondents affirmed that business should have “a positive impact on society beyond pursuing profits and wealth.” This represents “a departure for most of these CEOs from previously held views.” Seventy-five percent acknowledged their perspective and engagement in advancing the broadening of their corporate mission to serve business and society, “has changed over the past five years.”

In his Introduction to The Business of Changing the World, Benioff recalls how, as an Oracle executive in 1997, he was tapped by CEO Larry Ellison to help start the company’s first major philanthropic initiative. Ellison had been inspired by Colin Powell’s announcement of the launch of America’s Promise program, which in part challenged Americans to make a greater commitment to our youth. 

Oracle’s response was to launch a program to get computers into underserved schools, and Benioff would spend “half of my time in management meetings and the other half at schools in south-central Los Angeles, Washington, DC, Northern Ireland, and Israel.”

The company placed thousands of computers in hundreds of schools worldwide, catching Oprah Winfrey’s attention and earning Larry a shout out on her program. 

And yet, Benioff writes, “Our small team felt as if the effort fell short of leveraging Oracle’s full philanthropic potential.”

It’s a story that both inspires and cautions us: Be prepared. There is a great deal to be done, and it may seem overwhelming. But those are all opportunities to be rewarded in ways that may help a life, probably last a lifetime, and certainly be enriching.

This article was originally published on Tim Noonan’s blog.

How to Make Ethical Decisions in a Commercial World

Every business decision has consequences, and with so many factors to consider – and many unknowns we can’t consider – those consequences can be serious. For the executive whose decisions may impact large numbers of employees, vendors and consumers, it can feel like a high-wire ride on a unicycle. 

Now, toss ethics into the decision-making process, and keeping balance on that high-wire ride becomes even more challenging.

But making ethical decisions in a commercial world doesn’t have to be such a burden. 

Simply put, ethics is a moral philosophy of right and wrong. Business ethics, as Melissa Horton explains it in Investopedia, is “the system of moral and ethical beliefs that guides the values, behaviors and decisions of a business organization and the individuals within that organization.”

These “beliefs” are rooted in integrity, honesty, fairness, and protecting the public welfare. In some areas…laws, regulations and codes have been enacted to protect the environment, prohibit discrimination, and maintain health and safety standards.

Apart from those obvious ethical considerations, there are many more vague issues that we all must navigate daily on a case-by-case basis. Here are some steps you can take to help you make the best, most moral decision possible in difficult situations.

To read the rest of this article visit Tim Noonan’s blog.

The Biggest Cause of Workplace Burnout And What To Do About It

We’ve all felt it and seen it in our coworkers – a positive link between job satisfaction and productivity. 

When we’re happy with our company and our role in it, when there’s a healthy level of challenge to keep us engaged and when we feel we’re contributing to the team, we are motivated to do our job … and do it well! 

But when something happens to turn any of those positive aspects toxic, we can quickly be pushed over the edge with stress that sends both job satisfaction and productivity into a nosedive.  

According to Corporate Wellness magazine, even though a job improves the health and general outlook of many people, workplace stress can become so significant “that it outweighs any possible benefits and even poses a threat to [our] health.” 

And, if work-related stress is prolonged or excessive, it raises the likelihood of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion known as “burnout.” 

Dr. Christina Maslach, a professor of psychology emerita at UC Berkeley and an expert on the subject, defines occupational burnout as “a high frequency of three things: exhaustion, cynicism and a lack of professional efficacy on the job.”

Lack of control over matters that directly affect our job is one of the leading contributors to burnout. Workload, access to proper work tools, and even work schedules are among the things beyond an employee’s control. If supervisors or managers are inconsiderate and don’t take input from their direct reports, burnout can occur more often. Other factors include lack of a proper work-life balance, defective work dynamics and unclear job expectations.

“Casual full-time workers, who are likely to have the lowest job control and high job demands are most at risk of job strain,” adds Corporate Wellness.

The effects of work-related stress are diverse. 

The American Psychological Association has determined that musculoskeletal pain in the low back and upper extremities are linked to stress and “especially job stress.” 

High blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and mental health issues are among the health problems that can be caused by work-related stress. Job stress can also lead to substance abuse and a long-term downward spiral in an individual’s quality of life. 

We know that adversity builds character, and a certain amount of perseverance through difficult times is valuable. But awareness that there are serious dangers to letting stress get out of hand, and more importantly having permission to make adjustments to avoid work-related stress, are essential to individual health and the health of any well-run business. 

Managers who are skilled at empathetic leadership are able to recognize the signs before burnout and later disengagement or even turnover becomes an issue. Creating a safe workplace culture where an open dialogue is encouraged can go a long way in reaching workable solutions. 

More and more companies are offering healthy activities like yoga and tai chi classes, as well as mindfulness and meditation programs to employees for stress management. Studies have shown that these practices as well as carving out unscheduled time and taking ‘brain breaks’ can improve productivity and reduce burnout in the workplace. 

Mitigating workplace burnout by investing in the well being of all employees is not only the right thing to do, it is a sound business investment that pays great dividends. It reduces turnover, improves productivity and allows companies to recruit top talent.

This article was originally published on Tim Noonan’s blog.

Important Soft Skills for Success at Work

For years the focus of hiring was on individuals that possessed strong technical skills and expertise in their respective fields. Now, interpersonal skills are leading the way into the future: the priority recently is to screen job candidates for soft skills. Also known as emotional intelligence (EQ), soft skills help to set people apart. Unlike “hard” skills, soft skills develop differently and aren’t necessarily taught in places like higher education, which, theoretically, prepares individuals for the job market. Emotional intelligence even has financial gains: according to a 2015 LinkedIn report, people with high EQ make on average $29,000 more than their non-emotionally intelligent peers. Although there is a wide range of skills that fall under the interpersonal umbrella, the following are especially important to your success in the workplace.

Respectfulness

Respect is fundamental in developing personal relationships. Although it can be easy to get absorbed in our work and ourselves, take a step back and make a moment for respect. Even the small acts can have a significant impact on the way that others see us and the way that we carry ourselves. Some suggestings include waiting for people to finish talking before chiming in and thanking others for their contribution when they’ve shared an idea. Punctuality is another way to show respect, so show up to your meetings and appointments on time. 

Interest

A recent study revealed that 48% of employees have felt embarrassed because they didn’t know a coworker’s name. Make it a point to learn the names of your colleagues even if they work in different departments or offices. Try your best to remember what someone has told you when you get to know them. If, for example, they gave a big presentation or had a family event, don’t let that slip from your mind. Ask about it, and try to take a little more time talking about them than about yourself. 

Listening

This goes in tandem with both interest and respect, and there are three ways to listen: physically, mentally, and emotionally. Physical listening entails reading the nonverbal cues of the other person and responding appropriately. Mental listening means connecting with what others are thinking and getting to the heart of what they’re saying, but don’t confuse this with listening to respond. “Tell me more,” is a powerful phrase that you can use in exercising mental listening. The third and final way to listen is emotionally, which means listening for what others are feeling, and showing compassion and empathy. Ask them about specific events or projects, like, for example, “Do you feel comfortable with this assignment?” It’s a good idea to stay away from general statements like, “How’s it going?” for such a cliche statement will likely prompt an equally generic statement. 

Everyone has the capacity to build their EQ with training and practice. These soft skills will not only improve your communication and relationships but your problem-solving skills that can impact your well being and professional success.

This article was originally published on timnoonan.us.

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